During the visits to the centres for accommodation of asylum seekers in Bogovađa, Banja Koviljača and Sjenica, in 2016 and 2017, a special section of work comprised the various ways of using photo media as the communication link, means for telling stories and personal history through recalling memories, but also as a way to daydream about the future in the desired cities and imagined places.
The people we worked with had left their homes, lost everything including their social life and the position in society. They did not have many photos with them (mostly preserved in phones and similar devices), and the photos they had reminded them of some important and joyful events in their lives. These photos were a reminder of the dignified and orderly life they used to live, and the encouragement to hope for such a life in the future.
We often spent time in showing photos, as we were trying to learn about each other. In our work with women, photos from weddings and family celebrations were the basis for telling stories and comparing similarities and differences in habits and customs, while teenagers most often showed photos of cities they had visited during their journey, emphasising which cities they wished to visit.
Inspired by these conversations, artists Luka Knežević Strika and Ivana Bogićević Leko, came up with the idea to create an improvised photo studio where it was possible to “visit” the desired cities. In the dark chamber, the participants of the game were photographed in the desired cities projected on a white screen. The participants chose the city they wanted to visit, and then, all dressed-up they would pose to Luka in front of the desired city’s sights. The game took us to many places – not only those who had been visited in the imagination, but also to the birthplaces of our participants and cities where they had felt comfortable, to the nature that reminded them of their childhood or some nice events . The photos remained as the memory of the “future”, of everything expected and hoped for.
In addition, Luka Knežević Strika achieved professional cooperation with a photographer, beneficiary of the centre in Bogovađa, Zirek Mestu Nagrem. Zirek is a member of the Yazidis, an ethno-religious group from the territory of Iraq. While living in Iraq, at the Sharia refugee camp, he worked as a photographer for international organisations. He met with Luka in the camp in Bogovađa, where they started their cooperation. Together they made the publication “My Last Night at the Sharia Camp”. The publication contains a collection of Zirek’s photographs from the camp and the story of the last night he spent there, as well as a brief presentation of the Yazidi people and religion. Cooperation would have continued successfully, but Zirek continued his journey and arrived in Germany, where he met with his brother.
Project: INVOLVED – INclusiVe COmmunities Lead to the Vibrant SociEty without Discrimination; Our new neighbours – a step closer
Goal: Project goal is raising awareness of asylum seekers and migrants, general and professional public on social, economic and cultural rights of asylum seekers and migrants; Contribution to the development of the reception system for different categories of migrants and an open and tolerant society.
Implementers: Group 484 (Educational Program “We and the Others”)
Support: The Delegation of European Union in RS – European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR); Open Society Foundation Serbia